Closing prisons could save $30 million in the proposed budget

The state Senate would close two of the state’s oldest prisons to save money.

McNeil Island Correctional Complex, which began as a federal prison in 1875, and Green Hill School, a juvenile lockup that first opened in 1896, are among the largest facility closures included in the Senate budget released by the Democratic majority Monday.

The closures would save about $30 million in the proposed two-year budget.

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice said she believes the island prison is dangerous for staff and inmates because it’s so old. The facility started housing state inmates in 1981 and remains the country’s last island prison accessed only by boat.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said McNeil Island is more expensive to operate than other state prisons.

The Pierce County prison houses about 1,300 inmates who would be shuffled to other prisons if it is closed. Green Hill School, a maximum-security facility in Chehalis, holds 186 offenders ranging in age from 17 to 20.

Senate Democrats also would cut costs by reducing prison sentences for some offenders and ending at-home police checks of Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders. Those offenders are believed to be the most likely to reoffend.

Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, said Democrats should place a higher priority on prisons.

“What good does it do to have great schools if our children are raped, murdered and assaulted to and from school? Public safety has to be the first call,” Carrell said.

The closure of McNeil Island wouldn’t affect the Special Commitment Center, the state’s mental-health program for civilly committed sex offenders



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